TOS Blog: Daily Commentary from an Objectivist Perspective

The Best Teacher Evaluation “Plan” is a Free Market in Education

Teacher evaluation is all the rage today. The “central question” confronting the education establishment, writes Lyndsey Layton in the Washington Post, is, “What’s the best way to identify an effective educator?” And, Layton notes:

After a three-year, $45 million research project, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation believes it has some answers. The most reliable way to evaluate teachers is to use a three-pronged approach built on student test scores, classroom observations by multiple reviewers and teacher evaluations from students themselves, the foundation found.

What’s missing from this equation? The parents.

This is symptomatic of a broader moral inversion. As C. Bradley Thompson puts it in his essay “The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of our Time“: “Government schooling takes away from parents the enormous responsibility of providing their children with an education and transfers that responsibility to the state.”

Parents should have the final say on the competency of those who educate their children. More broadly, parents should have the freedom to direct the course of their own children’s entire education, with their own money, according to their own judgment—and not just as a practical necessity and parental responsibility, but as a moral right. This will not happen as long as government maintains its domination over America’s schools.

Bill Gates’s Microsoft flourished and grew because Gates was (relatively) free to innovate in the private and largely unregulated high-tech marketplace, within which consumers are free to “vote with their wallets.” Educators have no less of a moral right to freedom in their field than Bill Gates has in his—and parents have no less of a moral right to freedom of choice in education than Gates’s customers have to freedom of choice in software. And just as the (relatively) free market in software fosters product excellence, so a free market in education would foster excellence in that field.

If Americans are concerned about “the best way to identify an effective educator,” they should call not for another top-down plan for tweaking the “public” schools, but for the abolition of government from the field of education. Parents and educators in the marketplace can then freely determine what kind of education they respectively want to offer and buy, and whether the teacher evaluation methods advocated by the Gates Foundation, or anyone else, suits them.

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Creative Commons Image: woodleywonderworks

Posted in: Education Policy

Comments are welcome so long as they are civil.
  • Stephen Bailey

    The article implies but leaves unstated why the parents must have the say so on education: The parents ARE the consumers of the service as long as the child remains a minor. Today, we have no idea how much a good teacher is worth because education is dominated by public and non-profit organizations. There is not profit motive and, therefore, no ability to test the market-worth of a good teacher. This is a shame. A good teacher is very likely to be aware that they are better than the majority of their peers. Yet, they are all compensated on a scale dominated by check-the-box education level and years of teaching. This system does not motivate good teachers to remain in their chosen career. If they remain, it is for other reasons. Meanwhile, the economic incentives exist for good teachers to leave education for better rewards elsewhere.

  • John Pryce

    I would say that it is unnecessary to make the explicit point you are referring to given the audience of this website (and given the annoyance of having to make these points over and over again), but I suppose there is also the attempt to reach the unconverted.